Sore Eyelid: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Eyelid sores are a common problem, and it can happen for different reasons, including infections, blepharitis, styes, and conjunctivitis. Some causes are easily treated, but eyelid pain can also be a red flag for more severe conditions like Graves' disease.

eyelid pain

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Symptoms

Eyelid pain can happen in the upper and lower eyelids simultaneously or only in one of them. It is essential to pay attention to the location of the pain because it can be a symptom of different diseases. The sores can be in the eyelid, in the eye itself, or in the surrounding areas. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, pain when blinking, scratching against the eyeball, and redness.

When to See a Doctor

People should pay attention when unusual symptoms follow their eyelid sores—severe pain, fever, vision loss, seeing halos, and nausea and vomiting demand immediate medical care.

Children are more vulnerable to eyelid problems. They have are prone to eye infections, especially styes and chalazia, that are rarely serious. These infections, however, should not be taken lightly. Left untreated, they can lead to orbital cellulitis, which affects mostly children. 

Causes

Eyelid pain is often uncomfortable, but the most common diseases that cause eyelid pain like infection and allergy are easy to treat.

Infection and Blockage

Inflammation is when a part of the body becomes red, irritated, swollen, or painful. It can happen when the body is fighting an infection from bacteria or viruses or in response to an injury.

For instance, blepharitis is caused by bacteria present in everyone’s body and is more common in people with oily skin. When one of the eyelid oil glands is blocked, the area will become red, swollen, and burning. Styes are also an infection caused by bacteria and appear when the oil gland is blocked. It will create a bump in the eyelid that can occur in an internal or external area.

Conjunctivitis (pink eyes) is another condition that causes eyelid sore, and it can be caused by bacteria or a virus. When it is a viral infection, it is highly contagious. The eyes will become extremely sensitive and have a yellow or green discharge.

Allergies

Eyelid rashes are common, especially in women, which can be caused by an allergic reaction or an autoimmune disease. There are different types of allergies, such as contact dermatitis, when the skin reacts to a substance like makeup since color cosmetic products are frequently suspected as the source of metal exposure. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is associated with asthma, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and chronic dermatitis. Common allergens include tree pollens, mold spores, dust mites, and pet dander.

Injury

Eyelids are a sensitive area, and they are vulnerable to injuries. Injuries to the eyelid may also affect the eyeball or tear ducts. The best way to be sure of the severity of the injuries is by scheduling a doctor's appointment.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are another common cause of eyelid pain. This condition often causes a lack of fluid circulation in the eye and pain in the eyelid. The reasons can be lack of sleep, environmental conditions (wind, dust, air conditioning, etc.), or aging.

Treatments

Home Remedies

Most eye problems require a visit to the ophthalmologist, but some can be treated at home:

  • Eyelid injuries: Ice is an efficient treatment for black eyes. The only thing necessary is placing an ice pack over the eye for 20 minutes every hour. However, if there are other symptoms (blurry vision, inability to move the eye or blood), the person should see a doctor as soon as possible
  • Viral conjunctivitis: While bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with medication, viral conjunctivitis will not respond to antibiotics and will disappear on its own. It is possible to reduce the discomfort by applying cool compresses on the eye
  • Styes: They are often harmless and disappear after a few days. People can treat it by placing a washcloth soaked with warm water on their eyes

Over-the-Counter Medication

Some eye disorders may be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. For example, allergic conjunctivitis is often treated with mast cell stabilizers, antihistamines, sympathomimetics, and astringents. Artificial tears can offer immediate relief for people who have dry eyes. 

Prescription Medication

Doctors will often prescribe ointments to treat bacterial infections. Ointments have a jelly texture and is often used overnight. These medications can be effective at treating bacterial conjunctivitis and some types of keratitis.  

Complications

The area around the eyelids is quite sensitive, and problems affecting it can cause short- and long-term complications. When the eyelid inflammation lasts for a long time or happens too often, it can scar the hair follicles and result in eyelash loss. Long-term complications include styes.  

Untreated infections are also responsible for 98% of orbital cellulitis, which can cause blindness and meningitis in severe conditions. It is more common in young children, but it can also happen in adults.

A Word From Verywell

Eyelids are an extremely delicate area and vulnerable to infections and rashes that cause pain and discomfort. Although they are often easy to treat, it is essential to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. This will help avoid complications caused by using the wrong home remedy to treat the cause of eyelid pain or serious complications like loss of eyesight from untreated underlying conditions.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Inflammation. Updated October 22, 2020.

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is blepharitis?. Updated December 1, 2020.

  3. Oh JE, Lee HJ, Choi YW, Choi HY, Byun JY. Metal allergy in eyelid dermatitis and the evaluation of metal contents in eye shadows. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016;30(9):1518-21. doi:10.1111/jdv.13646

  4. Pharmaceutical Journal. Over-the-counter ophthalmic preparations.

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